archive review originally posted on the losing today site c. 2001
TICKETS FOR A PEEK
I blame the day the cardboard mailer dropped through the letterbox and onto the doormat. I remember it vividly. The record inside looked inviting enough, it was called ‘Unwrapped’ and had been put out by Promenade recordings, it would be the first and last time I’d ever hear anything from the fledging Swedish label. A very vague press release introduced the Philadelphia based duo Jan and Julian, veiled references, though not musically, were made to the White Stripes. The vinyl artefact went on the turntable and therein I was hooked.
Forget what you’ve heard about electro-clash so far, in fact don’t, just check out the aloof retro glaze of the hypnotic sleaze core of Lene Lovich in a cat fight with Barbie on ‘I want to be sexy’ which out chills even the eminent Miss Kitten and so cheeky it appears again re-jigged by Baxendale who impart on it a wicked dance groove and rap sequence. What sets Winterbrief aside from their peers is that they go directly to the root cause, they are mischievous noise niks who have honed in on electronicas more simplistic and basic nature and roughened it up with a spiked backbone. All the time amid the furiously discordant displays of casios undergoing meltdown and abruptly awkward guitar riffs, Winterbrief garner a schizoid side to their character that’s not a million miles from the agit electro pop of Holland’s Zea with whom they share much in common.
Despite whatever limitations you’d think such an enterprise could consider to entertain, these kids kick ass big time, of that there’s no doubt. A furious blend of raucous techno beats rumble beneath a wired concoction of splintered sonic disturbance that has more to do with the punk ethic than anything else and yet despite the surface carnage there still inherently beats a massive pop heart at the core (‘Young bright thing’).
‘Tickets for a peek’ opens with ‘I think I saw it coming’ and pretty much sets out the duos manifesto perfectly having you imagining some kind of super group made up of the Normal and Human League, track by track they give hints as to their ancestry, on ‘Best Offers’ they even deploy art rock manoeuvres pretty much in the best tradition of classic Fall with Devo at the controls similarly on the wayward ‘We’re getting there’ the spectre of Devo rises again this time strapped to a serious pumping euro disco underpinning that recalls Front 242 while on ‘Art Loft Rebel’ (here remixed by the Guy who invented fire) they combine lunacy and frenetic pop in the name of Bis to such a level that your head literally expands. Then there’s the edgy warp pop of ‘Days outdoors 1’ and ‘Days outdoors 2’ the former cultured from riot grrrl the later vogue-ishly robotic in texture. My personal favourite cut though is ‘The Glamour Wheels’ which manages to hit upon all the best facets of Winterbrief, imagine early stripped to the core Depeche Mode being lulled and remoulded by Ladytron, whirling spacey signatures, austere textures, aloofly drawn frosted pop served with just the right amount of sophistication and attitude, quite alluring. ‘Tickets for a Peek’ is both skittish and scary and will appeal to all those who love their pop, not the kind of tasteless shelf pop that’s so prevalent these days, but the kind of twisted pop that creeps from the shadows and stalks your every waking thought.